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New veterans spur confidence that Bears’ defense will be better

Chicago Bears defensive end Jared Allen (69) works with teammates during NFL football practice Lake Forest Ill. Tuesday May 27

Chicago Bears defensive end Jared Allen (69) works with teammates during NFL football practice in Lake Forest, Ill., Tuesday, May 27, 2014. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh) ORG XMIT: ILNH122

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The Bears’ defense is stocked with veterans. Here’s a look at their starting unit in OTAs lined up in the nickel formation:

Player Pos. Seasons Games

Jared Allen DE 10 157

Lamarr Houston DE 4 64

Jeremiah Ratliff DT 10 109

Stephen Paea DT 3 39

Lance Briggs LB 11 165

Jon Bostic* LB 1 16

Tim Jennings CB 8 115

Charles Tillman CB 11 154

Kyle Fuller CB 0 0

M.D. Jennings S 3 47

Ryan Mundy S 5 80

* Bostic played with the first team last week with 10-year vet D.J. Williams absent from the voluntary camp.

Updated: June 2, 2014 11:07PM

The Brian Urlacher rumors outlived his NFL career by more than a year.

More than 53 weeks after the future Hall of Fame linebacker retired from the Bears, a national report Monday linked Urlacher to the Cowboys, who must replace the injured Sean Lee.

Urlacher’s NFL return is highly unlikely — he’s 36, and spent the last year playing golf, fishing and serving as a Fox Sports 1 analyst — but his 13 years of pro experience still carries weight.

A full season after Urlacher’s departure, the Bears don’t lack for experience — or leadership — on defense.

In addition to re-signing cornerbacks Tim Jennings and Charles Tillman and defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff, the Bears added three prominent veterans to rebuild their defensive line during the offseason.

Half of Jared Allen’s 10 seasons ended in a Pro Bowl appearance. Fifth-year player Lamarr Houston, added alongside 28-year-old Willie Young this offseason, served as a Raiders captain last season.

“Their presence alone, they’re leaders,” linebacker Lance Briggs said last week after the Bears’ first day of organized team activities, which continue Tuesday at Halas Hall.

“They were leaders everywhere they’ve been.

“Being here, veterans understand what you have to do, these guys know what they have to do.

“They know what their job is, and they’re going to get it done.”

Briggs said it was “great to have a veteran presence in the defensive huddle,” even on the first day of OTAs.

“I think that’s important,” he said.

OTAs typically provide young players a chance to impress, particularly given the league’s new, stricter offseason schedule. At Halas Hall, though, the sessions are notable for the meshing of new veterans into the team’s rebuilt defense.

“The biggest challenge is remembering who is who,” Jennings said. “Right now, everybody is a number.”

Well, not everybody. Allen’s presence is unmistakable.

“He’s a high-motor guy and he’s a great leader,” Briggs said. “He’s a great addition to this defense.”

The former Vikings star, signed to a four-year, $32 million deal in March, said that “change is good — if you allow it to be good.”

“It definitely energizes you,” he said. “Any time you make changes, and for me, personally, I don’t know if you call it selfishness or not, but I don’t want to be that guy who they feel like, ‘We shouldn’t have got him.’”

“When I signed, I wasn’t going to be that guy that wasn’t worth the money.”

That will be determined not only by Allen’s performance — his 128 ½ career sacks trail only John Abraham among active players — but by whether the Bears improve a defensive unit that was a field goal away from allowing the most points in the NFL.

“That’s not Chicago football,” Jennings said. “It’s not what we’re known for, regardless of who was here and who we didn’t have.

“That’s just the fact of having the pride of being a part of this defense, being a part of this team.

“So I’m sure every guy has taken it upon himself to be better than we were last year. Even the coaches, all the way down to the players and the front office.

“We’ve done what we’ve done in the offseason — and now’s the time to have the transition to the field.”

The Bears still have “a long way to go,” Briggs said.

“The good thing about it is, we’re in the summertime now,” he said. “Got a lot of time to bring in all the fundamentals, get everything installed, the whole system.

“So that by the time we get back to training camp, we’ll all be ready.”


Twitter: @patrickfinley

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